Whether we like it or not people make assumptions about us, our business and even how we conduct our business based on the industry we are in.
Don't believe me? What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a used car salesmen, lawyer or journalist? When you call a tradesman are you expecting them to be on time or late? Tidy or messy? What about when you meet with an accountant? Are you expecting a passionate, engaging person or a person who has less personality than their calculator?
While some people certainly do fit their industry stereotypes, many of us don't. But as frustrating as it can be to be judged according to a perception, idea or bad experience someone else is responsible for, it can provide you with a very clear way to differentiate yourself and a very powerful method to sell.
To show you here are four tips to help you turn your industry stereotype into powerful points of difference.
1. Define your industry stereotype
In order to rise above the perceptions and bad experiences people have had with others in your industry you need to define your industry stereotype. To do this take everything bad (joking or otherwise) someone has said about your industry and combine it with common perceptions people have of someone in your field.
By doing this you now have a list of what not to do, and how to differentiate yourself in the mind of your customers.
2. Create your industry "villain"
Once you have your "not to-do" list, create the "villain" of your industry to give all of the negative attributes a personality. For some industries like real estate or investment, you might paint a really shady, unscrupulous, self serving character, though for others it might be quite mild in comparison yet still appeal to common industry frustrations.
The key is to make this "villain" realistic and relatable, because this is the person you are getting your customers to focus all their negative feelings and bad experiences on instead of you and your industry as a whole.
For example a tradesman might say something along the lines of...
"Have you ever been left waiting for hours without a phone call wondering where your [tradesman] was? Then when they finally arrived [x] hours late, after trampling dirt all through your home, you find out [insert frustration: the job has to be delayed/the job would take longer than anticipated/the job was more expensive than quoted/they don't have all the materials or equipment they need/it wasn't done the way you wanted etc.]?" Continuing on with the pain, frustration and inconvenience caused.
3. Become the "hero"
Once you establish the pain and frustration the "villains" cause your potential customers, you then need to establish yourself as the "hero" who swoops in to save your potential customers.
To do this you need to paint the picture of how you, your products and services, the way you deliver them and/or the way conduct your business is vastly different in comparison to everyone else in your industry, using the proof of testimonials where possible.
Through your marketing copy, and when you are talking to your potential customers, show them how you provide what they need and want, taking the weaknesses of the industry "villains" and turning them into your own marketable strengths.
To use the tradesman example above, you might follow on by saying...
"But imagine if instead you received a phone call an hour before your tradesman is due confirming your job details along with his estimated time of arrival. If, when they turn up - on time - they removed their shoes, communicated clearly on how long it would take, explained what was involved, had all of the tools and materials needed in their fully fitted out workshop on wheels and delivered on time, on budget with the highest quality workmanship - guaranteed. Then after they finished, they cleaned up all of their mess leaving no trace they had been there other than a job well done. That is what you receive with [business name]".
4. Follow Through
While positioning yourself as the "hero" can generate interest and sales, delivering on what you promise is the true key to overcoming industry stereotypes and creating raving fans that will go on and sell your business for you. People can't help but talk about someone who is breaking the mould, particularly when the person has helped them greatly.
Have you ever found yourself stereotyped based on your industry?